Houston Astros: Four reasons why a Game 4 Verlander start makes sense

Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Houston Astros will turn to Justin Verlander on just three days rest, although risky, here four reasons why starting him in Game 4 makes perfect sense.

The Houston Astros‘ loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 4 puts Houston’s postseason run at their first bump of the road. Needing one win in two games, the Houston Astros will look to get the win in Game 4 by starting Justin Verlander on three day’s rest.

Obviously, I’m disappointed with the outcome of Game 3 as with everyone here. We had a chance to clinch the series and advance to the ALCS. But instead, we got a reminder of why the Rays are a good team and why the postseason is a different breed of animal. Charlie Morton was Charlie Morton in the postseason in a must-win game and he proved it. Zack Greinke got roughed up after a few innings although I must admit, his postseason ERA did need to be trimmed down. But where we lost the game was the missed opportunities to drive in the runners in scoring position and the bullpen making the deficit worse than what it was.

It’s now 2-1 in our favor and the Houston Astros will have two chances to close it out. However, they aren’t taking any chances as AJ Hinch announced Justin Verlander as the Game 4 starter on three days rest. This seems like a risky decision given that Verlander went seven innings allowing one hit and threw 100 pitches in Game 1.

Some fans have thought that maybe you go with Jose Urquidy as your Game 4 starter. That way, if the Houston Astros lose Game 4, then Verlander is your Game 5 starter. My counterargument would be while Urquidy has pitched well recently, it’s a high-risk move because you’re basically handing the ball to an inexperienced pitcher and asking him to clinch a series while leaving your best pitcher in the pocket for game five. Any other manager would’ve done this. But Hinch is not any other manager.

Remember in 2017, he used Verlander on short rest from the bullpen in Game 4 against the Boston Red Sox. Sure enough, despite giving up a two-run blast, Verlander was able to hold the Red Sox down until the Houston Astros came back to win the series. So once again, the Houston Astros find themselves in a similar situation except they would be asking more from JV.

But when you really think about it, starting Verlander on three days rest, although risky, actually makes more sense because of four reasons:

  1. You have an opportunity to close out a series against a team looking to head back to Houston for Game 5.
  2. If you start Urquidy, who is scheduled to go Game 4, and he loses, then Verlander goes Game 5. Should JV win Game 5, then the next time he’ll pitch is in Game 3 ALCS on the road at Yankee Stadium. We could be behind 2-0 by that point if things don’t go well for us.
  3. If JV loses Game 4, then Gerrit Cole goes for Game 5 on regular rest. If Cole wins Game 5, JV will be pitching in Game 2 of the ALCS.
  4. If JV wins Game 4, the Astros will use him for Game 2 of the ALCS at home.

The last two points are critical. If either one follows through, Verlander will be going up for his next home start in Game 2, which is huge. Game 4 is risky either way. But at this rate, why take a chance on Urquidy who hasn’t pitched in the postseason when you can throw Verlander to try and finish the series?

The quest is to end the series. If the Houston Astros get to the ALCS, then they should use the

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four-man rotation. The worst case scenario would be to have Urquidy come out of the bullpen for late innings if Verlander doesn’t go all the way.

It is a gutsy decision by Hinch and one that can potentially backfire. Gone are the days when Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, and Nolan Ryan would go on three days rest in the playoffs. Mike Scott was bound to go for another three days before the 1986 World Series. But when you look at Verlander’s numbers (1.05 ERA in 25 2/3 IP, 30 strikeouts, four walks) in potential clinching games, who’s better?

All it comes down to is if JV can pitch well and if our offense can step up and deliver because they are costing themselves chances to score. They were 6-for-27 with runners in scoring position yesterday and that does not guarantee wins folks. Our pitching has kept us in the driver’s seat. But those guys, specifically No. 4 in the lead-off spot, need to step up.

Next. Astros: Three keys to a series win over the Rays. dark

I did say it wouldn’t be a sweep with the Rays. This might be just a bump in the road. Perhaps, it’s a wake-up call we need to stop thinking far ahead and take care of business in Game 4. But I hope we can finish the job in four or five and play on Saturday.

Go Houston Astros!